Dud dum… dud dum…dud dum…inhale, exhale, pause… bang! These are the sounds of a hunt’s final moments. These were the sounds I heard about 30 minutes from dark on my deer hunt. And all these sounds have one purpose: to put packages of meat in the freezer. And this particular hunt, I learned a lot about listening to my guides – both of them.
My cousin and I both drew non-antlered deer tags this past fall. We were so excited when Grandpa told us that he had lined out a piece of property that a friend of his owned. I was even more excited when my cousin got a deer on the property and then finally, it was my turn to go on the hunt.
It was the morning of December 12 (it felt more like the night of December 11). Grandpa and I were traveling down the deserted US Highway 85 at 4:30 AM with the smell of hot chocolate and “All Things Considered” on the radio interrupted by occasional yawns. After a few hours in the truck, we arrived at our hunting grounds.
The ranch covered about 200 acres of grassy plains interspersed with cottonwood trees. It sits in a bowl surrounded by sand dunes, and has a creek running right through the middle. In other words, it is prime white-tailed deer habitat. As soon as we got there, we started to see deer. We saw a herd of about 20 deer a half of a mile from the truck, so we got out of the truck and started to stalk them. When we got as close as we could without them seeing, we were on a small hill covered in sagebrush and annoying little cacti – the kind that are almost invisible until you put your hand or your knee on one during a stalk. As we crested the rise we couldn't see the deer, but they could see us. To get a better view, we started to get onto our hands and knees, and as soon as we started that herd of deer thundered out of there faster than you can say shoot. They stopped at what looked to me at about 225 yards away, and I was confident in my shooting ability at that distance. I took a couple of shots and surprisingly missed them all, and the deer ran away! Grandpa was just as bemused as I, so we walked to where the deer had been, and paced out the distance. We realized that it had been over 325 yards!
After that miss, we went up and down the roads of the ranch. We would glass the fields every so often, but all of the deer we saw either were bucks that still had their antlers, or they were on the neighbor’s property. So about noon, we headed up to the sand dunes. From the road it was about a three-mile hike up to the places where Grandpa had seen deer previously. About 2:00, we were walking along a fence line looking for a good spot to cross, suddenly Grandpa stopped and dropped to all fours. As I dropped too, he turned around and whispered, “There are three deer about 100 yards from the other side of the fence. One of them is a doe, so get in position and shoot it.” Because of the vegetation that had drifted up against the fence, I had to slowly stand up and quickly locate them and shoot. As I stood up I immediately saw them and the one Grandpa was talking about. There were two bucks and what looked to be a small doe resting in the shadow of a hill. I leveled my gun and was about to shoot when a small voice said, “Look at its head!” I looked and realized that because of the shadow we did not see the small three-point horns sticking out of its head. I couldn’t shoot.
We kept looking, and eventually we had to start back for the truck. As we were walking we would pass blowouts, which are miniature valleys caused by wind erosion. We were about a mile and a half from the truck, when Grandpa stopped suddenly and said, “Go and check that blowout over there and I’ll meet you on the other side.” I thought “Whatever, there might be a deer in there.” As I walked up to the edge something told me that I should take off the safety of my gun, and as soon as I reached the edge of the blowout, three deer came boiling out of there. As soon as I saw them I dropped to one knee to steady myself as I shot. Two of the three deer ran straight over a hill, but the third stopped, turned broadside, and looked at me. As soon as she stopped I put my crosshairs on her and shot. As soon as I shot, she fell down dead.
Later Grandpa said the reason he sent me to check the blowout was because he felt the Spirit prompting him to send me to check the blowout. I also believe that the voice that told me to check that small buck’s head, and the voice that told me to take the safety of my gun was the Spirit. I believe without the help of Heavenly Father, my hunt would have turned out very differently.